27.5049, Review: Anthropological Ling; Socioling: Kostanski, Puzey (2016)

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Subject: 27.5049, Review: Anthropological Ling; Socioling: Kostanski, Puzey (2016)

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Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:49:04
From: Paula Prescod [paula at cityplay.fr]
Subject: Names and Naming

Discuss this message:

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-695.html

AUTHOR: Guy  Puzey
AUTHOR: Laura  Kostanski
TITLE: Names and Naming
SUBTITLE: People, Places, Perceptions and Power
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Matters
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Paula Prescod, University of Picardie - Jules Verne

Reviews Editor: Robert A. Cote


“Names and Naming: People, Places, Perceptions and Power”, edited by Guy Puzey
and Laura Kostanski, is a 15 chapter, 258-page volume dedicated to the field
of onomastics, which is the study of proper names. The contributions are
divided into three equal parts. There are notes on the contributors,
acknowledgments, and a 9-page index.

In their introduction, the editors build on the premise that the act of naming
cannot be taken for granted. They explore the purpose of naming, the roles
performed by names, and the implications of the names chosen for people,
places, streets, businesses, etc. The editors drive home the point that names
and naming are intricately tied into questions of identity, attitudes, and
power. This is their rationale for the 3-part layout under the following

(1) ‘The Varied Identities of People and Places’, where five contributions
explore the extent to which names can be seen as symbols of cultural,
personal, political, and social identities; 

(2) ‘Attitudes and Attachment’ with another five contributions on the various
attitudes towards names and naming and the levels of attachment individuals
feel towards names; 

(3) ‘Power, Resistance and Control’ consisting of the last five contributions,
which examine the degree to which the will to name and to control naming is a
manifestation of power.

Chapter 1, by Katarzyna Aleksiejuk, ‘Internet Personal Naming Practices and
Trends in Scholarly Approaches’ is an interesting entry into the book given
that name bearers are not typically the ones who choose their names. The
chapter deals with Internet anthroponymy, where naming is less restricted and
often self-ascribed. The comprehensive overview of the literature provided on
naming practices on the Internet allows us to appreciate how naming practices
in computer-mediated communication can be seen as a way to shape identities
similarly to offline naming. This perspective is an interesting one especially
as it relates to how we interpret usernames, i.e. what gender, age, hobbies,
etc., we attribute to a username bearer. The contribution suggests that our
perceptions are often based on stereotypes and exemplars. It also reminds us
that our interpretations can be miscued since identities can be, and are
often, masked behind usernames. We look forward to having researchers fill
some of the gaps that would enhance our understanding of the motivations for
username choices. For instance, in as much as identities are constructed, to
what extent do users consciously choose names that communicate a desired
image? What patterns can be observed among different cohorts with respect to
the concealment of identities?

The next two chapters take the readers to Australia. In Chapter 2, Ian D.
Clark’s, ‘Visitor Experiences of Aboriginal Place Names in Colonial Victoria,
Australia, 1834-1900’ adopts a historical approach to toponyms in narratives
of journeys to colonial Victoria. The author examines the expressed interest
shown for Aboriginal place names in 100 such works and whether the sentiments
expressed were positive or negative. Some toponyms gave the writers the
impression they were in Scotland. Others found that Aboriginal names were
unpronounceable. Still others found them sweet-sounding and expressed regret
that Aboriginal place names, which they viewed as a window to Australia’s
history, were replaced by non-Aboriginal ones. The author meticulously walks
the reader through the remarks expressed by the 10 writers who showed interest
in Aboriginal toponyms. This miniscule interest reveals that Aboriginal people
were largely ignored by colonists and that their rights were trampled on.

Chapter 3, ‘Introduced Personal Names for Australian Aborigines: Adaptations
to an Exotic Anthroponymy’ by Michael Walsh, also examines attempts to silence
Australia’s multiculturalism. The chapter prolongs the discussion on
introduced personal names and sobriquets given to the Australian Aborigines
which only served to accommodate the anthroponymic conventions of the settlers
they came in contact with from as early as 1788. Many of the names used were
pejorative and racially charged or simply objectionable as they marked various
disabilities. The chapter is a brilliant piece of research into the
phonematics of adjusted introduced names as it outlines how these names can
accommodate Aboriginal preferences for introduced names. The chapter also
underscores the challenges Aboriginal descendants face when they attempt to
trace their lineage. It also relates some of the obstacles researchers face
when soliciting information. For instance, it is  important to respect
peoples’ wishes not to break name taboos. Aboriginal personal names are
regarded as private property and kept out of the public area; no elicited data
that is obtained privately should be used unless it is also found in public

Chapter 4, by Ellen S. Bramwell, ‘Personal Naming and Community Practices in
the Western Isles of Scotland: Putting Names in the ‘Gaelic Sense’’ also deals
with anthroponymic practices. The group of islands which are the focus of the
study possess appellations in English, Scottish English and Scottish Gaelic.
In this community, Gaelic speakers have waned significantly although even
young people claim it as an ancestral language and salute its cultural
importance. The methodology used in the study to obtain the following findings
is robust. Informal Gaelic naming traditions are used to situate a person and
thus afford distinctiveness which is lacking due to the way official names are
structured. There are high occurrences of isonymy owing to the limited stock
of official forenames, which Gaelic also allows to dispel via bynames, names
related to physical characteristics, patronyms or place names attached to the
bearer. In addition, naming practices in this community are multilayered,
allowing for the indexing and reinforcement of community knowledge and
close-knitted social ties as part of everyday practices. 

Chapter 5, by Peter Mühlhäusler and Joshua Nash, ‘Signs of/on Power, Power
on/of Signs: Language-based Tourism, Linguistic Landscapes and Onomastics on
Norfolk Island’ could have easily found its way into Part 3 on power,
resistance and control owing to the power-related issues it focuses on. The
chapter deals primarily with the identity of Norf’k, an endangered, low
prestige language which continues its struggle to remain in the linguistic
landscape on Norfolk Island. The authors identify the tourism sector as the
agent that seeks to revive and empower the language. Tourism products,
promotional items, and signage reproducing elements of Norf’k have contributed
to its increased presence in the linguistic landscape, but the actual number
of resident Norf’k speakers has decreased. Thus, Norf’k is taking on a new
function as a cultural marker and delineator of insider identity as a result
of successful efforts to commodify Norf’k place names and the powerful
discourse of tourism which, ironically, does not offer visitors any
substantial information on the history of the Island, let alone about the
Bounty story and even less about the Pitcairn descendants. It is unclear why
the authors did not mention 1789 as the year when the mutiny on the Bounty is
reported to have taken place although there are at least three references to
this historic event. 


Chapter 6, by Laura Kostanski, ‘The Controversy of Restoring Indigenous Names:
Lessons Learnt and Strategies for Success’ offers an evaluation of the
1989/1990 proposal by the State Government of Victoria to restore indigenous
toponyms in the Grampians National Park. It also puts forward proposals as
guidelines for similar future proposals. From the outset, the author states
that the name restoration proposal failed but deems it worthy to invite
putative witnesses of the program to reflect on its lack of success. The
survey carried out in 2006 sought to investigate whether the 1989/90 opponent
had started using the indigenous names proposed. On the whole, they were not
inclined to do so. Based on the premise that people are attached to toponyms
for various personal reasons, the case study allows the author to explore and
develop a theory on toponomastic attachment in relation to attitudes towards
names. The project did not catch on for the following reasons: it was
initiated by a politician who was perceived as an outsider, therefore, he was
illegitimate; residents felt they needed to be a part of the process, yet they
were not consulted beforehand; the one-place-one-name policy practiced in
Victoria hindered the inclusion of dual – English and Indigenous – names in
the proposal; and finally, the officials’ secret agenda was to create
controversy by having people talk about the Grampians National Park at all
costs as a way to boost tourism in the area. Here we are far from the notion
of “political innocence” used by Rose-Redwood (2011) to characterize banal
naming practices. We are also on the flipside of “legitimacy-without-
controversy” (Berg 2011) to the extent that there was a political and economic
move to produce a new toponymical landscape.

Chapter 7, by Terhi Ainiala, ‘Attitudes to Street Names in Helsinki’ develops
an approach to folk onomastics that captures attitudes to, and perceptions of
place names and name users. The descriptive approach allows the author to walk
readers through the beliefs and attitudes expressed by 38 informants towards
place and street names in Vuosaari, a coastal neighborhood in eastern
Helsinki. It comes as no surprise that they generally have negative attitudes
towards street names that have no discernable relation to the area or towards
names that lack transparency. Kostanski’s notion of toponymic attachment is
relevant here since 10 of the respondents participating in this survey were of
Somalian background. We may assume that familiarity and shared experiences
help foster attachment to place, but the author does not explain how factoring
in this portion of the population affects the overall objectives and results
of the study. We are therefore left with the impression that the full depth of
the survey was not exploited.

In Chapter 8, ‘Linguistic Landscape and Inhabitants’ Attitudes to Place Names
in Multicultural Oslo’, Maimu Berezkina focusses on Grønland, a multicultural
area in Oslo, whose linguistic landscape informs readers about linguistic
diversity, language practices and ideologies. The author proposes results of a
socio-onomastic attitudinal survey carried out among 108 respondents with
Pakistani, Norwegian, and Polish background to investigate commercial signage
in six streets that were either official (street signs, parking regulations)
or unofficial institutions (restaurants, slogans). Norwegian occupies a vast
amount of space in the linguistic landscape, followed by English. As is
expected, Norwegian, with or without another language, accounts for all the
signs related to top-down planning. Businesses that seek a large Norwegian
clientele tend to use Norwegian on commercial signage in the bottom-up
contexts. The presence of English would appear to be an effect of
globalization. Other non-European languages like Urdu, Arabic, Tamil, Kurdish,
and Persian are also present depending on the targeted clientele. The main
conclusion is that attachment to place names is weak when individuals do not
share history and culture with the place. Some methodological issues could
have been ironed out such as  how were in-depth interviews made possible after
the initial anonymous survey done online, and under what conditions were the
interviews carried out; what is the nature of the questions asked in the
in-depth interviews?

Maggie Scott’s Chapter 9 ‘Attitudes to Scots: Insights from the Toponymicon’
examines the linguistic situation and the negative attitudes towards Scots, a
generally stigmatized language unlike Scottish Gaelic and English, which
generally stir positive attitudes. Nonetheless, the author contends that the
negative attitudes shown towards Scots in non-onomastic contexts do not
parallel the positive attitudes it prompts in toponymic contexts. Firstly, it
is widely represented in the physical linguistic landscape in both top-down
and bottom-up flows. Secondly, whereas there is no controversy surrounding its
presence in place names, there is controversy over the use of the language in
non-onomastic contexts. The author distances herself from terms like Scottish,
English and British, which have often proved to be problematic and ambiguous,
preferring instead the term official to refer to the different toponymic
examples. She, however, shares the observation that Scottish Gaelic is being
further raised in prestige to compete with existing official names as it is
preferred in domains previously occupied by Scots. Nonetheless, unofficial
names bear many Scots features and there is an extreme potential for
innovation in social media, heritage and community events and commercial
names. Scots is thus said to be an enregistered variety, i.e. one which is
culturally and socially recognized in onomastic contexts. Insofar as its
cultural significance overrides the social and stylistic messages it conveys
in other domains, we can construe the historical and commercial Scots names as
a form of onomastic enregisterment.

Chapter 10 by Erzsébet Györffy, ‘Slang Toponyms in Hungary: A Survey of
Attitudes Among Language Users’ deals with attitudes to slang toponymy and the
purpose of slang toponymy creation. The main purpose for slang creation is to
build group cohesion. Slang toponymy is used primarily among peers and to
express social identity. According to the author, a high level of innovation
is involved in the process but there are also other productive linguistic
processes like truncation, abbreviation, restructuration and phonological
changes. The methodology employed to arrive at these analyses is not
thoroughly laid-out: we do not know how many questions were asked in the
survey, nor do we know under what conditions the questionnaire was filled out.


In Chapter 11, ‘Renaming as Counter-Hegemony: The Cases of Noreg and Padania’,
Guy Puzey ties Gramsci’s framework of cultural hegemony into the (re)naming of
places and the power relations inherent in the act of naming. The author also
develops the argument of counter-hegemony which underlies the Gramscian
notion. More specifically the contribution shows how Gramsci’s concept of
cultural hegemony can be used to understand the Nynorsk movement in Norway and
the drive to promote dialect toponomy in Padania, in northern Italy. The
author finds that while the two movements had similar counter-hegemonic
objectives (i.e. to promote counter hegemony by substituting place names given
by the dominant forces with names that represent the vast majority of
Norwegians and to challenge the de facto status of Italian as the language in
which place names in Padania should be featured), their methods contracted
drastically. The proponents of the Nynorsk movement proceeded in a manner
which did not aim at shutting out any groups, whereas the Lega Nord campaign
excluded certain groups who could not identify with the dialectal spellings
they imposed on road signs. As such, the author asserts that rather than being
perfunctory, toponyms are symbols of nationhood and identity and ultimately of
inclusion and exclusion.

Chapter 12, by Staffan Nyström, ‘Naming Parks, Footpaths and Small Bridges in
a Multicultural Suburban Area’ examines two city districts in the northwest of
the Stockholm municipality. In both districts, Rinkeby and Tensta, more than
85 percent of the residents do not have Swedish background. Law enforcement
agents and social workers assumed residents could communicate better with them
about places provided these were named. Virtually all the parks, bridges, and
foot paths in both districts lacked official names. One interesting finding is
that for this multicultural population, non-Swedish names are not desirable as
they imply segregation rather than a willingness to integrate. The names
proposed were neither alluring, multicultural nor international but they were
Swedish, functional and relatively easy to remember. We are privileged to have
benefitted from an insider’s input on naming processes and strategies: Staffan
Nyström is a consultant on the Name Drafting Committee.

Chapter 13, by Justyna B. Walkowiak, ‘Personal Names in Language Policy and
Planning: Who Plans What Names, for Whom and How?’ approaches anthroponymy
from the perspective of language policy and planning (LPP). The chapter is a
remarkably strong contribution as it applies the theoretical framework of LPP
to onomastics. Like LPP, anthroponymy involves individuals, and ideologies of
planners and policy makers. Naming ideologies may be at the root of how
nations decide that individuals should/should not be named. The author offers
a wealth of novel information about planning practices in a number of
countries and shows that naming policies are a reflection of political
ideologies and of the discourses political leaders considered worthy of
endorsement at the time. By censoring certain anthroponyms, authorities can be
convinced that their naming regulations protect citizens when in fact they
protect names (famous names, rare names, historical names, etc.).

In Chapter 14, ‘Is the Official Use of Names in Norway Determined by the Place
Name Act or by Attitudes?’, Aud-Kirsti Pedersen deals with problems related to
the implementation of Norway’s Place-Names Act (PNA), whose major purpose is
to safeguard place names as cultural monuments, to determine spellings that
are practical, as well as to promote knowledge and active use of the names. It
is significant that the author is a Senior Executive Officer in the Norwegian
Naming Authority. A specific case is studied here, that of implementing Sámi
and Kven spellings for farm names. The author puts into contrast the attitudes
of farm owners and of public sector employees responsible for executing the
decisions taken by the PNA with the attitudes of members of the general public
who prefer spellings that are perceived to be reminiscent of dialectal forms
for landscape-based names. This is probably related to the fact that, at least
up to the 19th century, there were efforts to Norwegianize Sámi and Kven place
names, a process which went hand in hand with the assimilation policy
vis-à-vis Indigenous people. The author suggests that the perception that old
spellings are more correct than dialectal forms is inherited from the unequal
share of power various groups had: the language of prestige throughout the
Danish rule of Norway was the language of foreign elites i.e. of the Danes and
the Germans while the spoken language of the common Norwegian people was
widely stigmatized. The issue of conflict is clearly examined in this
contribution: the major problem associated with the PNA implementation
concerns not spelling but the use of Sámi and Kven names by the authorities.
In one case, a Lule Sámi place name was removed, in another, a Sámi place name
caused hostility among portions of the population as it was considered a
threat to collective identity. For this reason, the authorities would rather
continue to silence minority language typonymy.

In the final chapter ‘The Power of Administration in the Official Recognition
of Indigenous Place Names in the Nordic Countries’, Kaisa Rautio Helander
continues the debate on Indigenous toponymy in Norway and Finland. The
political act of naming is examined under two perspectives: whether Indigenous
toponymy is aimed at respecting linguistic and cultural rights of minority
Sámi; and whether the failure to restore Indigenous place names amounts to
continued silencing of Indigenous toponymy. The author focusses on the
official recognition of Sámi toponymy and examines the level of neutrality
administrative bodies exercise in the naming process. The author compares the
recognition and implementation of Sámi place names in the Sámi domicile areas
of Finland and Norway before concluding that while Finland has succeeded in
implementing bilingual signage, and in showing respect for the Sámi and for
their rights to self-determination in their domicile area, in Norway, local
municipalities tend to stall the process by using dilatory maneuvers, which
for the author, contradicts the Nordic model for equality. Consequently,
personal opinions and attitudes are allowed to override Indigenous interests.
The author thus calls for a reexamination of the present policy and a way to
enhance self-determination.


This book is a welcome addition to the expanding field of onomastics. It joins
the likes of Hough’s (2016) edited volume to present a wealth of studies that
would broaden our understanding of how naming practices affect people, places
and of what images and attitudes their names conjure up. In fact, this book
shares seven contributors with Hough’s volume. The interdisciplinary nature of
the field of onomastics makes this book a treasure for post-graduate students
and researchers in cultural studies, historical linguistics, human geography
and planning, lexicology, sociolinguistics, sociology, and urbanization. It
will also engage practitioners in geo-marketing and toponymical planning as it
invites readers to adopt a critical approach to naming and to scrutinize the
balance of power inherent in naming. The focus is almost exclusively on three
geographic zones with studies of Nordic countries, Australia and Scotland
accounting for 12 chapters. This however does not take away from the value of
the book. Indeed, the focus on these geographical regions is an indication of
the need for onomastic research to continue to find ways to entice researchers
in numerous other parts of the world.


Berg, Lawrence D. 2011. ‘Banal naming, neoliberalism, and landscapes of
dispossession.’ In ACME - An E-Journal for Critical Geographies 10(1), 13-22.

Hough, Carole. 2016. The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. 

Rose-Redwood, Reuben. 2011. ‘Rethinking the agenda of political typonomy.’ In
ACME - An E-Journal for Critical Geographies 10(1), 34-41.


Paula Prescod is Associate Professor at the Université de Picardie Jules
Verne. Her research interests include descriptive linguistics, Caribbean
English-based creoles and language and cultural phenomena related to the
Indigenous Caribs and Garifuna. She is currently working on place names in St
Vincent and the Grenadines as signposts to the past.


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